Government urged to transform Oxford-Cambridge Arc into UK’s Silicon Valley supercluster



A high-profile report is calling for the government to establish a ‘Science and Technology Growth Board’ in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc to further transform the region into a U.S-style supercluster.

Property consultancy Bidwells and policy firm Blackstock Consulting published a 160-page report today, Radical Capital, in which more than 60 universities, investors, industry leaders, trade bodies and research institutes lay out a blueprint to ‘supercharge’ innovation in the Arc.

If they get their way the region could become profitable for landlords, with fresh talent being pulled to the area.

The Arc – which currently accounts for seven percent of England’s economic output – is set to grow to £235 billion by 2030 and already supports over two million jobs.

The region is home to some of the UK’s most innovative life sciences and technology businesses, as well as giants such as Cambridge-based Apple, Microsoft, and AstraZeneca, which is featured heavily in the report.

But by failing to accommodate the expansion of high value life science and tech in this globally leading cluster, economic growth will fall at least £50 billion short of its full potential, the group warns, with demand for office and laboratory space currently the equivalent to six AstraZeneca HQs, or 300 scale-up businesses.

The region is the birthplace of the influential Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Nick Pettit, senior partner at Bidwells, said: “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is the lifeblood of our life sciences industry and the home to world-leading innovation in sectors like advanced manufacturing, AI, robotics, and renewable energy that is internationally renowned.

“Creating a dividing line in access to funding and chanelling investment away from global centres of excellence neglects the nation-wide benefits that investment in the Arc and its scientific enterprises can generate. As an entity, the Arc would be brilliantly placed to forge greater and stronger collaborations and partnerships with, across and in other geographic and sectoral areas of expertise in the UK, for the national good’’

“A central Arc body with powers to coordinate and deliver supporting infrastructure, investment, housing and space for innovation, can unlock a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will benefit future generations to come.”

The Radical Capital think tank argues the Science and Technology Growth Board will ensure central coordination of activities which affect the area’s ambition to become a global supercluster similar to Silicon Valley – a region where economic output is similar to the whole of Finland’s.

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This new body, which would be steered by appointed government ministers, would be responsible for coordinating the delivery of all new skills, training and commercial and laboratory space within the Arc, which covers three million people.

The Arc’s importance to key industries, including life sciences as the home to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, has been viewed as essential to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s vision for Britain to be a world-leading “scientific superpower”.

Its economy doubled over the last two decades with the emergence of science and tech as a growth accelerator for the region. Bidwells estimates the size of the economy could double again to £235bn by 2030.

Andrew Teacher, managing director at Blackstock Consulting, said: “We have brought together captains of industry, academics and peers with a one clear message: Britain’s levelling-up agenda depends on us leveraging science and technology. The Arc doesn’t need subsidies or bailouts, but it does need central coordination if we want to sweat the assets we have and spread the wealth of knowledge and research nationally.

“Right now, Cambridge and Oxford are bursting at the seams and as a result, growth is going abroad rather than to other UK regions. Our thriving life sciences sector has been in the spotlight on the world stage for two years. Now is the government’s opportunity to supercharge this cluster of growth to help support research and development in other places too.”

Contributors to Radical Capital:

  • Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford
  • Nathan Bostock, CEO, Santander UK
  • Dr Andy Williams, Vice President — Cambridge Strategy, AstraZeneca
  • Andrew Teacher, Founder & Managing Director, Blackstock Consulting
  • Patrick MacMahon, Senior Partner, Bidwells
  • Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Director, Harwell UKRI-STFC
  • David Williams, Director, Harwell Campus
  • Dr Phil Clare, Director of Innovation & Engagement, University of Oxford
  • Richard Tunnicliffe, Director – East of England, CBI
  • Prof Bill David, University of Oxford and Harwell, UKRI-STFC
  • Prof Yvonne Barnett, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Anglia Ruskin University
  • Leah Thompson, Enterprise Manager, Enterprising Oxford
  • Dr Julia Wilson, Associate Director, Wellcome-Sanger Institute
  • Dr John Baker, Senior Vice President, Abcam
  • Yvette Lamidey, Co-Founder Central Arc Angels
  • Edward Lee, Partner & Head of Corporate & Commercial, BlaserMills Law
  • Miles Kirby, CEO, DeepTech Labs
  • Mike Anstey, Partner, Cambridge Innovation Capital
  • Pete Wilder, Head of Property, Oxford Science Enterprises
  • Jason Mellad, Founder & Managing Director, Start Codon
  • David Mott, Founder Partner, Oxford Capital
  • Pete Gladwell, Group Social Impact & Investment Director, Legal & General
  • Pete Bachmann, Managing Director – Sustainable Infrastructure, Gresham House
  • Alistair Lomax, Director, AUG
  • Bev Hindle, Executive Director, Arc Leadership Group
  • Richard Hepworth, Group Director of Project Management, Urban & Civic
  • Andrew Taylor, Group Planning Director, Countryside
  • Prof Lynette Ryals OBE, CEO, MK:U
  • Prof Karen Holford CBE, Vice-Chancellor, Cranfield University
  • Hilary Chipping, Chief Executive, SEMLEP
  • Viren Patel, Director of Development, Open University
  • Sebastian Johnson, Head of Innovation & Inward Investment, OxLEP
  • Mark Nicholson, CEO, Vivacity Labs
  • Bill Kane, President – East Coast & UK Markets, BioMed Realty
  • Anna Strongman, CEO, Oxford University Developments
  • Doug Cuff, Vice President of UK Real Estate, IQHQ
  • Sam Darby, Head of Development, Bruntwood SciTech
  • Dr Kath Mackay, Director of Life Sciences, Bruntwood SciTech
  • Artem Korolev, Founder & Managing Director, Mission Street
  • Harriet Fear MBE, Director, Cambridge&
  • Dan Thorp, Director of Policy & Programmes, Cambridge Ahead
  • Dr Jerry Wu, Head of Investment, TusPark UK
  • Richard Turnill, Senior Bursar, Trinity College Cambridge
  • Prof Greg Clarke CBE, Chair, Connected Places Catapult
  • Dr Tim Moonen, Founder & Managing Director, Business of Cities
  • Andy Martin Consulting, Founder, Andy Martin Consulting
  • Salah Mussa, Chair, Mercantile Group
  • Chris Mortensen, Co-Founder & COO, Modulous
  • Martin Garrett, Managing Director, Cambridge Cleantech
  • Dr Andy Gilchrist, Director, Oxford TESA
  • Stuart Cole, Head of Sustainability, Living Oxford
  • Rich Stockdale, Managing Director, Oxygen Conservation
  • Annette Jezierska, Founder & CEO, The Future Fox
  • Prof Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
  • Alex Robinson, Director of Development, Grosvenor
  • Hugo Llewelyn, Managing Director, Newcore Capital Management
  • Richard Jackson, CEO, Present Made
  • Jo Cowen, CEO, Jo Cowen Architects
  • Olaide Oboh, Director, Socius
  • Clark Dean, Executive Managing Director, Transwestern

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